A Buffalo police officer who was the subject of a federal bribery investigation was found dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Pendleton home Monday afternoon following a standoff.
A Niagara County SWAT Team had surrounded the Paddock Ridge home of Officer Jeffrey A. Mott of the Central District after receiving reports he was threatening suicide. He was found dead when they entered his house.
Mott, who spent more than 25 years on the force and was the highest-paid employee in the city in 2011, was being investigated by federal authorities for allegedly taking bribes from Buffalo tow truck operators, according to a law enforcement source and other sources with inside knowledge of the case.
“If he was alive, he probably would have been charged,” the law enforcement source said.
Mott was one of several Buffalo police officers suspected of taking kickbacks in return for information about accidents in the city, according to a law enforcement source close to the suicide investigation.
The internal investigation was initiated by Buffalo police and led to a federal probe that became public in December when FBI agents and Buffalo police searched Jim Mazz Auto, a towing company at 1255 Bailey Ave.
“That’s part of the investigation,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said at the time of the raid at Mazz Auto and the allegations of police corruption and bribery.
“Some of the complaints are in that vein.”
No arrests have been made in the case, but a source close to the suicide investigation said Mott likely would have been charged with taking kickbacks.
The investigation stems from a practice of the city using private tow truck companies when a police tow truck is unavailable.
One of the consequences of that competition, city officials said, is that tow truck operators often raced to a crash scene, only to find a competing operator already there. The competition for tows became so fierce that fights broke out at crash scenes.
A source with inside knowledge of the federal probe said Mott was accused of being “extremely active” in accepting bribes from towing operators.
“Mott was one of the people who didn’t stop doing this,” even after the “noose was tightening” around other city officials involved in the scheme, the source said.
An indictment of Mott may have been imminent, according to the source.
Mott also took advantage of his seniority at the Police Department, earning $111,460 – almost double his base salary – just in overtime in 2011 and totaling $183,154 in earnings that year.
His post in the Central District, which includes Canalside, First Niagara Center and the Chippewa Street area, provided many opportunities for collecting overtime.
Niagara County sheriff’s deputies said they responded at about 2 p.m. Monday to Mott’s residence in Pendleton, which is between North Tonawanda and Lockport.
Deputies warned residents in the area to stay in their homes. Mott had reportedly made threats to kill himself with a gun.
Sheriff’s deputies surrounded his house and unsuccessfully tried to contact him, said Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour.
When deputies entered, Mott was found dead, with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. It’s unclear when the shot was fired. Sheriff’s officials later told Pendleton residents that it was safe to leave their homes.
Sources also suggested that when Mott died, he might have been dealing with personal issues in addition to the federal investigation.